In October, over 200 of the world’s zoo and aquarium directors gathered for the 67th Conference and Annual General Meeting of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
By Judy Mann
The conference was held in Melbourne, Australia and was ably hosted by Zoos Victoria. Zoos Victoria includes the Healesville Sanctuary, the Werribee Open Range Zoo and the Melbourne Zoo, which celebrated its 150th anniversary during the conference.
With the theme ‘Fighting Extinction’, the conference provided delegates with an insight into the conservation work being undertaken in zoos and aquariums throughout the world.
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So often zoos and aquariums are criticised for being financially driven and focussed more on animals than on conservation. However, the range and depth of the zoo based conservation projects presented made it clear that zoos and aquariums are about much more than making money. In fact, research has shown that over US$ 350 million is donated by the world’s zoos and aquariums to field conservation projects each year. This is in addition to the opportunity to reach over 700 million visitors per year, with conservation messages that encourage positive environmental behaviours.
The conference showed that the world’s zoos and aquariums are serious about animal care and welfare, serious about conservation – both through captive breeding programmes and field based conservation and serious about their role in communicating the need for better care of our planet to their millions of visitors. While juggling these varied roles is sometime difficult, the commitment of the directors to conservation was obvious.
To protect the wild places and wild animals of the world we need people to care for them, and around the world, good zoos and aquariums are inspiring people to care through magical experiences. Through the discussions it became clear that WAZA and its members are important and active players in the international conservation field.
In case you were wondering – a Hellbender (see above right) is a type of salamander!!!
Image of Hellbender, thanks to Jeff Humphries